Opening at the Newnham Old Labs on a beautiful May evening after the sky had finally cleared up, could not have been more perfect for 'Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme' – an adaption one of Molière's 'Comédies-Ballets', first presented before Louis XIV, directed here by by Ruby Zajac and Helena Kernan.
A French social satire about contradiction of noble birth and the attempt of the bourgeoisie to attain the status of ‘quality’, the play’s protagonist Monsieur Jourdain, brought to life by Jake Spence, is one of these ‘bourgeois’ with the goal of rising above his middle-class background to be perceived as an aristocrat. Jourdain is trying: he attends music lessons followed by philosophy lessons, in which he learns the profoundness of alphabet and the essence of prose – after finding logic, morals and physics all too banal…
The exceptional sense of humour, an infusion of Molière’s genius, Zajac’s and Kernan's sharp direction and the actors’ spontaneity, was highly appreciated.
When the young suitor, Cléonte played by David Bonson, pretends to be a Turkish nobleman and stages the ‘Mamamouchi’ celebration (such a highlight of the play, you need to go see it tonight), I think that even Edward Said would have had to approve of this jolly version of orientalism.
The cozy setting of the Old Labs made the sound to bounce off the walls while the ballet footage played, and added another layer to the magic of the production; and by 'magic', I mean how everything just fell together perfectly, including the great response from a large, receptive audience. The footage, a collaboration of the cinematography of Kit Heren and Helena Kernan taken around Cambridge, was mixed with cuts of oriental architecture and patterns and definitely highlighted the artistic and creative freedom, as well as the professionalism, of the production team.
M. Jourdain, perhaps a repugnant character in theory, is portrayed as a loveable, pretentious yet somehow genuine persona through Jake Spence, whose acting was superb, with punch lines well delivered. Such brilliance!
Finally, a request: Please film the second and last night of the play?